Downtown SP Paving Could Be Delayed
The planned repaving project on Broad Street will apparently occur in two phases under separate contracts in an effort to appease downtown Southern Pines merchants.
Under a tacit agreement worked out Thursday during an informal meeting, the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) agreed to remove a five-block downtown section from the current contract if the Southern Pines Town Council passes a resolution asking NCDOT to move repaving of that section to July or August next year.
"This is a unique situation," said Tim Johnson, division engineer for NCDOT at its Aberdeen office. "We're still going to pave Broad Street from Morganton Road to Massachusetts Avenue this year. We're just going to skip the downtown portion if the town council passes the resolution. It does not have to be done right now."
Town Manager Reagan Parson said he would bring the potential resolution before the Town Council at its monthly meeting Sept. 13.
Earlier this year, NCDOT awarded a $1 million contract to S.T. Wooten Corp., of Wilson, to repave Broad Street from Morganton Road to Vermont Avenue and four other roads in Moore County. The work can begin at any time and must be completed by the end of November.
Merchants were adamant Thursday that the Broad Street portion of the contract be postponed until next summer, which is typically their slowest time of the year for sales.
"Honestly, any repaving affects me year-round, because I run a restaurant," said Con O'Mahoney, owner of The Bell Tree. "I'm not asking you to make miracles, which I know you can't do, but I am asking that you undertake the project when it will have minimal impact on all of us."
O'Mahoney and the rest of the merchants in downtown Southern Pines are eagerly anticipating a boost this fall, especially during the all-important holiday shopping season, and were glad that their pleas did not fall on deaf ears.
"I'll concede the summertime if everyone comes in and buys an ice cream cone," said Anthony Parks, owner of The Ice Cream Parlor.
That light-hearted closing statement, which drew laughter from those in attendance, essentially erased the tension that had existed during much of the hourlong meeting.
Steve Grasso, co-owner of Broad Street Bakery, noted that 18-wheelers often made product deliveries during the day.
"If they can't get to me, they're going to keep going," Grasso said. "Obviously, that would be very detrimental to my business."
Merchants are mainly concerned that road construction will limit access to businesses, create loud noises and foul the air when the asphalt is laid down. As a result, they have pressed NCDOT for project details.
Lee Riggsbee, president of the Southern Pines Business Association, said the option proposed by Johnson appeared to please the majority of those in attendance.
"We'll wait to hear further details," Riggsbee said. "The SPBA will stay in touch with DOT and the town, and pass along information as we receive it."
Reade Dawson, general manager of the asphalt division for S.T. Wooten, has said the company could either pave Broad Street first - most likely in mid- to late October - or delay it until after March 15.
NCDOT usually does not allow repaving projects between Dec. 15 and March 15 because of winter temperatures.
The construction timetable is typically laid out at the preconstruction conference, which is scheduled for Sept. 8.
Dawson has also said that S.T. Wooten, which declined an invitation from NCDOT to send a representative to Thursday's meeting, would comply with any changes implemented by NCDOT.
Johnson erred on the side of caution Thursday when he told merchants that there is "a 20 percent chance" that the downtown portion of the repaving project will not be rebid separately next year.
"North Carolina stands to lose $300 million to $500 million in federal transportation funds if Congress does not extend the federal transportation bill when it reconvenes this month," he said. "If that happens, resurfacing projects may be pushed aside in favor of larger projects, even though federal funds are not being used in this project."
Johnson added that if the downtown repaving isn't completed within the next three to four years, it may take more time and more money to complete the work. Broad Street has not been repaved since 1988.
"It will be a bigger disruption," he said. "That's not a scare tactic. It's just a reality."
Mayor Mike Haney believes that merchants and the town council will be patient.
"If it doesn't come through in 2012, you keep coming back every year," Haney said. "All of the town councils that I've been a part of for the past 14 years have always been passionate about the merchants.
"Every single council member has been supportive and I don't expect that to stop now."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story